Australian millennials are turning their backs on the big screen in the lounge room, for the first time watching more video on their devices than broadcasts on television. This is bad news for television broadcasters - and it could also be bad news for big-screen TV manufacturers.
Australian broadcasters are the masters of burying the lead when it comes to talking about viewing figures, while using myriad different metrics to make it difficult to compare apples with apples.
The most telling statistic in the latest industry report is buried on page 13, where you dive into figures which make it clear that rusted-on seniors are all that's stopping Australia's viewing figures plunging into free fall.
The amount of broadcast television Australians watch continues to fall across the board, but 18-to-24 year-old viewers have passed a major milestone which is likely to spook broadcasters. At the end of 2017, these young Australian viewers became the first demographic to officially watch more video on their devices each month than broadcasts on a television screen, according to the Q4 2017 Australian Video Viewing Report.
They spent 31 hours and 5 minutes watching video on their computer, smartphone or tablet in the last quarter of 2017. Meanwhile they only spent 26 hours and 26 minutes sitting in front of a television screen watching live or recorded broadcasts. This figure doesn't include non-broadcast content, such as watching Netflix or gaming.
These viewers haven't simply switched to watching traditional television on a different screen, with industry figures indicating that Australians watch almost as much on Netflix as we do on the five major free-to-air Catch Up services combined. You can be sure the balance tips in Netflix's favour amongst these younger viewers. Meanwhile 25-to-34 year-olds appear to be destined to cross the same threshold in the next few years, as their broadcast viewing hours continue to fall.
When you dive into the figures it looks quite likely that Australian teenagers have already crossed this threshold of favouring personal devices, even though the report only keeps track of their viewing on televisions.
Teenagers are leading the charge as the amount of television Australians watch continues to fall. Teen television watching habits plunging almost 25 per cent in 12 months, and youngsters are clearly not regaining a taste for broadcast television once they come of age.
Australia's latest viewing figures come as the number of screens we own continues to rise, reaching an average of 6.6 per home. This is despite the ongoing decline in the size of the average Australian household, down to 2.56 people per home at the end of 2017.
Tablet and smartphone ownership rates are starting to plateau at around 50 and 85 per cent respectively as they reach market saturation. Meanwhile the average number of televisions per Australian household has slumped to 1.8, meaning you can no longer assume that your typical home has a second television in the rumpus room or bedroom. There's more likely to be a tablet on the coffee table.
Television ownership figures have been sliding since they peaked at 2.4 back in 2010. At the time this figure was expected to keep growing past three televisions per home, but then Apple's first iPad hit Australians shores and television ownership figures have been in decline ever since.
Having grown up with smartphones and tablets, millennials are a demographic time bomb ticking in Australia's television viewing figures – with little indication that they'll flock back to traditional television once they hit middle age.